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Crimea seeks broader autonomy, asking Russia to act as guarantor

February 07, 2014, 15:49 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Alexei Pavlishak

MOSCOW, February 07. /ITAR-TASS/. Amid tough confrontation between Ukraine’s authorities and the opposition, the Russian-speaking, autonomy-enjoying island of Crimea is set to demand expansion of its rights and to request Russia’s support. In the Ukrainian capital, not only opposition leaders, but also supporters of President Viktor Yanukovich express negative opinions on the Crimean parliament’s initiatives. Against this background, experts have again begun discussion on whether Crimea might separate from Ukraine.

Up to now, the Supreme Council of Crimea has insisted that the Ukrainian president should introduce a state of emergency and restore order in a tough manner. “We risk losing everything we have achieved through time and effort for all the years of our republic’s existence. We will be deprived of the right to speak, write and get education in Russian, the native language for most residents in Crimea,” the Supreme Council’s presidium said in its recent address. Last week, rallies against extremism and in support of stability gathering thousands of protesters embraced Simferopol, Sevastopol and other cities in Crimea.

As Yanukovich did not dare to introduce a state of emergency, the presidium decided this week to put for a vote several radical initiatives expanding the region’s autonomy. It proposed to set up a working group on amendments and addenda on the region’s autonomous status to the constitutions of Crimea and Ukraine and to hold a public opinion survey among residents. The Supreme Council also plans to adopt an address to the Russian president and Federal Assembly requesting Russia to act as a guarantor of the inviolability of Crimea’s autonomous status.

Sergei Tsekov, a parliamentarian from the Russian Unity bloc, was the first to put forward the initiative, asking Russia for “support, assistance and protection”.

“Taking into account the fact that Crimea is a Russian autonomy, Russian by nationality, culture and language, only the Russian Federation can be our guarantor and protector,” he said.

Crimea’s parliament is expected to consider the initiative at its next session on February 19.

The Supreme Council’s presidium “put for a vote reconsideration of the 1954 historical agreement transferring Crimea from Russia to Ukraine and legality of this transfer”, Rodina party leader Alexei Zhuravlev, an initiator of the Slavic Anti-fascist Front, said in an interview with the Nakanune.ru news portal. The first congress of the Slavic Anti-fascist Front took place in Crimea this week.

“Possibly, Crimea’s Supreme Council will even consider this issue,” he said. “Of course, this initiative has caused a rush in Ukrainian media, but anyway, the situation is right. It shows residents of Crimea that if pro-European integration forces pull Ukraine to the West, Crimea may take its own decision.”

The opposition expressed confidence that preparations for Crimea’s separation from Ukraine had begun. Members of the Svoboda nationalist party demanded criminal responsibility for authors of the initiative. “This statement should be considered as encroachment on sovereignty of the state. In fact, this means high treason. Ukraine’s security services should assess these actions,” said a parliamentarian from Svoboda, Yuri Sirotyuk.

A member of the opposition party Batkivshchina (Fatherland), Nikolai Tomenko, called on the central authorities to dissolve Crimea’s Supreme Council.

Representatives of the pro-presidential Party of Regions also did not hide their discontent with Crimean parliamentarians’ actions. “Such statements are made not at an appropriate time,” deputy Yuri Samolenko said.

“We will put all those who need this back in place. But we also put in place those who started dividing Ukraine into 'principalities.' Regions in western Ukraine were the first to speak of going independent, uncontrolled by the legal central authorities. What is going on in Crimea is only a protective reaction,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta cited a parliamentarian from the ruling party as saying, on condition of anonymity.

Head of the Ukrainian Policy Institute Konstantin Bondarenko said Crimea’s elites and policies had their peculiarities. “Many people there gravitate towards Russia. As Crimea felt some weakening of the central authorities, it tried to play its game. It offers itself to Russia, hoping for financing. This is such independent activity that it can be easily stopped. But now, Kiev does not want to quarrel with Crimea,” he said, expressing hope that the situation would be resolved as soon as Ukraine emerged from crisis.

“There is no threat of Crimea’s separation,” chairman of the board of the Centre for Political Technologies Boris Makarenko told Itar-Tass. “Ukraine’s business uncovered contradictions between the East and the West in the sense of geography and foreign policy decisions. Residents of eastern and southern Ukraine, Yanukovich’s political base, have never been especially passionate and never showed their intention to take to the streets while Crimea has always been known for this.”

The political scientist admitted that at the moment, Crimea’s separation was unlikely. “In the future, everything will depend on how Ukraine’s political and constitutional crisis develops,” he added.

 

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